Hiatus

Hallo!

Posting has been sporadic as I have been focused on learning how to make soda bread. That is perfected and I am on to yeast breads with the intent of learning how to make brotchen. And as a special treat, in the coming weeks, I am hoping to present to you home made Quark, Sahnequark and Magerquark.

The research and the practice are a bit time consuming as well as the job searching. So patience, we’ll be back shortly.

Pfirsich Kuchen

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peach cupcakes

Summer breakfast treats

Hallo!

Summer is still underway. It is the middle of peach season and the prices are right! So today I have for you a peach cake. It uses the same recipe as the plum cake HOWEVER, this time I used the right ingredients, no substitutions. We got a nice light and fluffy cake with great flavor. Granted this one didn’t get the height one expects, my fault for not cooling it in the oven with the door open for a few minutes.

The result though is a rustic cake in the German tradition with the American buttercream and peach slices for garnish.

I went with the butter cream as opposed to the rustic naked and icing sugar dusted cake because my peaches were weak in flavor even though they were fresh. That’s what I get for shopping at Wal-mart for fruit instead of a farmers market. Necessity breeds invention though. I cooked down two peaches in ALDI’s Landshut Riesling until I had a thick paste. This concentrates the flavors. Since the Landshut Riesling has an intense fruit flavor it was the perfect thing to bring out the peach flavor. A pinch of salt and a small splash of vanilla really strengthen those weak peaches. You must cool the reduction before adding to the buttercream frosting.

The recipe makes 6 giant cupcakes and one 4 inch round.

Grease and lightly flour tins.

Slice peaches for the batter.

Prepare batter. Spoon into tins to one third full. Layer fresh peach slices onto the batter by cutting into wedges, sliding the skin side right up to the tin wall. You have to leave room for the cake to rise; whole slices laid in the tin will prevent moisture from escaping. Spoon another tablespoon or so on top of slices. Spread batter while leaving a bit of the peach to peak out around the top.

Bake. Cool. Top with frosting. Garnish with thin slices of peach, skin on.

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family sized 4 inch cake is perfect for luncheon or Sunday tea.

Enjoy!

 

Piece of Cake!

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cake sliceAccording to the German food page at about.com Apricot cake is as common in Germany as the Toll House Cookie is in America. That said, this recipe then is one that all good German cooks must know and perfect. It is not too far a leap in logic to assume that quality of one’s apricot cake is a measure of the quality of one’s skills.

My Grandfather made a plum cake that was absolute Heaven in a 9 x 13 pan. And he preferred apricot preserves for all of his baking glazes. But he never made us an apricot cake.With  this recipe I’ve  used plumcots to get the plum cake my grandfather made and the apricots the recipe calls for.

Plumcots are a hybrid of plums and apricots and a source of contention for hybrid growers, marketers and farmers. Plumcots and Pluots are interchangeable varieties of a plum apricot hybrid to the masses. But not to aficionados. The gory details of their growing history can be parsed at slate.com. Counting myself among the mass of grocery shoppers, the only thing that is really important to note is that these fruits are more plum than apricot.

The skin is smooth and plummy, the flesh is firmer than plum and the flavor is definitely more plum but with an apricot tang on the finish. The plumcots are also cheaper by the pound in my area than either apricots or plums. So this is the cake we get as it calls for a pound and a half of fruit. Two pounds were 2.69 at ALDI. I like to think that Grampa would be impressed with the finished product as much as the price. Here’s hoping that it gets more than a 1.5 from the German judges.

SUBSTITUTIONS

In addition to substituting plumcots for apricots, I had to improvise the citrus and the baking powder. I only had limes in the house as the lemons didn’t look like a good buy. One lime will do. Lime has a stronger flavor than you would think when all is mixed together. So one normal sized lime, wholly zested is plenty.

Buttermilk is not something that I buy regularly. And I wasn’t thinking about it at all when I decided on this cake. Note to self: German recipes use a lot of buttermilk! So I juiced the lime I zested and used that as a buttermilk Substitute by adding one tablespoon of juice to my measuring cup and filling up to the one cup line with whole milk. Do this right before you start to mix the ingredients. By the time you reach the point of adding the buttermilk to the batter it should have the right acidity.

This recipe also calls for German Baking powder which is a double acting powder rather than the standard single acting we typically use in America. What’s the difference? Essentially the amount of carbon dioxide released in the process. So for this recipe I used 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar. Yes, oddly enough I did have THAT on hand.

Now that the substitutions are underway it is time to make the cake batter.

Cut your fruits in half and pit them.

Grease and flour your pan. Almost all of the German cakes I see require a Springform pan. I bought a Euro model at ALDI this Winter. You might have seen them on the Great British Baking Show. The platform is indented and the ring sits in the indent. When you lock the ring into position there is a lip around the bottom of the tin. I LOVE THIS FEATURE! If you bake a cheesecake that wants to run over the drips are caught in the pan before they hit the oven floor. It is genius! I still have my American pans. But I totally love this new one. And…. it makes a pretty though rustic serving dish unlike the American style which is usually covered in cake.

Batter Ingredients:

  • 10 tablespoons soft Buter
  • 2/3 cup Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 3 Eggs
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 2 teaspoon double acting baking powder
  • 1 cup Buttermilk or Sour Milk*

Cream the butter  with sugar and vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the zest.

In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients. Beat this into the egg mixture until well combined. Add the milk. Mix well. * original recipe called for 1/4 cup milk. I made the substitution recipe and inadvertently used the whole cup. I got a taller cake that was dense and less flakey than the German variety would have been. It was still delicious, the flavors all popped and it definitely spread better in the pan. 

Spread into the baking pan and tap out the air bubbles that might be trapped. Place plumcots on top of batter, cut side down, in a radiating pattern.

Bake at 350° for 30-40 Minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack.

Evolution of a Cake

You’ll notice my fruits are cut side up. This is a gorgeous presentation and if you were using APRICOTS then yes do this. Plumcot skins are smooth and the batter won’t grip them well. When your fork slices into the cake the fruit pops right off! This is why in the recipe I recommend turning them skin up. Hopefully the skins will cook better in the direct heat soften enough to cooperate with the fork.

Rather than measure out fruit by weight, I like to use what will fit in the pan. As you can guess I only used half of what was in the first picture above. And I did use an apricot glaze just because the cake didn’t really get all that golden brown on its own. This probably is due to all the milk that I used.

The basic batter and your choice of fruit is all you need for a sweet Summer cake.

Guten Apetit!

Summer Salad: Raw Purple Bean

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purple bean salad

This weekend we went tall ship hunting in Frankfort. Unfortunately the ship in our sites, the Norwegian vessel Draken Harald Harfagre had already set sail for Chicago. The Frankfort farmers market was already well underway so we went through. There were delights that made me yearn for a garden of my own. We found emu steaks, a supplier of sides of beef, and some wonderful veggies including the purple pole beans, german garlic, russian garlic, and some gorgeous red onions.

German garlic is little used in culinary practices. It is sharp with a hot tang, perfect for dishes when you want something strong. The farmer said that the Russian was sweet and mild. I used the German garlic for a pickling dressing on some trimmed pole beans. (More on that later) and wanted it to punch up my raw purple bean salad.

The purple color is only skin deep so the best way to preserve the color for serving is in a salad or as pickles. The salad has a strong dressing to punch everything up a bit. Which might be the most German thing about the dressing.

Ingredients:

  • purple pole beans, cut into 1 cm pieces
  • tomatoes diced
  • 1/4 red onion sliced thin
  • 2 balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove German garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 Riesling
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

First mix the Riesling and vinegar in a canning jar, with the garlic to soak a bit. Then add in sugar, pepper and olive oil. Screw on the lid and shake well.

Dice the purple beans into small pieces, about a centimeter. The raw beans should be on the small size so that the flavor snaps, the bean is still juicy and the interior seed isn’t tough or bitter. Toss in a bowl, add remaining veggies, coat with dressing and serve.

 

I garnished ours with a bit of fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

This is refreshing on a hot and steamy Summer day. And it looks like this is going to be a hot and steamy Summer so lots of days for enjoying these kinds of treats!

Fluffs: Quintessential Flavors, Blackberry

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dessert is served fresh in a Depression Era reproduction bowl after a sunny Summer on the deck.

We call them fluffs in the States. Fruits, Jell-o, or a pudding blended with a whipped cream, commonly Cool Whip, make a popular treat for Pot Luck gatherings. Simple ingredients and a rather large volume are the two biggest advantages to these desserts which were popularized in the 1040s with the food rationing. Undoubtedly, the concept came to the States with our Immigrnat Ancestors™

Combining a whipped cream with fruits for dessert stretches limited dairy resources. If Germans borrowed the idea from the French parfait they made the concept their own by tucking the mixture into a jelly roll cake. My personal preference is as a stand alone dessert served smartly in a pretty bowl or dessert glass.

For this simple dessert, rinse the freshly picked blackberries and drain well. Sprinkle roughly a tablespoon per pint onto the berries and let them macerate for about twenty minutes.

Prepare whipped cream in a CHILLED metal bowl with  CHILLED beaters for your hand mixer. Putting these in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes while your berries are macerating. The frozen bowl and beater will help achieve a higher fluff. Using COLD heavy whipping cream directly from the refrigerator and powdered sugar in the proportions for you favorite recipe will give you the most satisfying results. If you desire, a small splash of Vanilla extract can be added to enhance the flavors.

Drain the juice from the blackberries well. Fold into the whipped cream and serve.

It is that simple! And oh so refreshing on a hot day.

 

 

 

Sun, Sand & Water means picnic!

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Is there anything more inspiring than a day at the beach? Summer in Northern Michigan means that the whole outdoors is your living space. As it is here, it is so also in Germany. Though I have noticed in the travel magazines the the Germans are intrepid enough to eat out of doors even in the mild parts of Winter. I might be of German descent but I am not that well adjusted to brave a Winter picnic. That is a special treat for Summer.

Summer eats tend to be sandwiches, chips and assorted finger foods unless you will be at a park with a grill. Or bring your own. Once in a while you will find our basket filled with salads. The latest salad on the Summer menu  is new for us.

Introducing: Dinkelsalat

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spargel, dinkelsalat, & frickadellen

Dinkel is the German for Farro, commonly called spelt and sometimes confused with other varieties of wheat. Farro is a grain related to wheat that is more ancient than the Roman Empire. The protein rich grain is a staple in many European cultures as it is an economical alternative to expensive beef products. German preparations for Farro salad do not differ all that much from the Italian preparations. Though, true to German character, there are cream based dressings for the salad. As it is Summer and we like to keep things light on our adventures, and afterwards, this dressing is prepared with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Working with Giada’s recipe I made only minor alterations.

First instead of the fresh herbs I used dried. My German Thyme did not survive for a second year and I did not plant any new this year. We will get back to the herb garden next year. So I substituted 2 teaspoons Marjoram for parsley, used dried chives to taste  and a very small pinch of dried regular Thyme, about an eighth of a teaspoon and black pepper.

And I upped the veggie count. In addition to the tomato & onion in Giada’s recipe I added:

Fresh Asparagus

When I peeled and trimmed the asparagus, I took slices of the thicker part of the stalk. From each stalk slice until you have reached a thickness that will leave tender shoots when it has been steamed. The slices are about one eighth to one quarter inch thick. These were steamed in a basket on top of the farro during its cooking process, chilled in an icy water bath and then drained.

Peppers, celery, green onion

Finely diced multi colored peppers, red and yellow, gave a bit of extra color and crunch to the salad. Farro should be cooked until tender not soft like oatmeal. Since this was my first time and I slightly over cooked it the crunch from extra veggies was necessary.

I left the dressing for the recipe alone. You could use a fancy flavored balsamic vinegar for that little extra punch. If you are into flavored olive oils and have a bottle infused with herbs on hand use that. I imagine that would be even more amazing.

We picnicked on the deck once we got home from the beach with the steamed asparagus and a deep fried frickadellen rounding out the meal. Despite the deep frying this was a really light but filling meal. Each person had two frickadellen whereas one would be otherwise tempted to an American sized portion of 3 or 4.

Served with luncheon meat & cheese roll-ups you can eliminate the processed white bread of a traditional sandwich at the beach for a true shoreline picnic. Fresh seasonal fruits round out the meal anyway & anywhere you serve it.

Guten Appatit!

Frühstück Kuchen

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First day of Summer on the porch

When we were kids the first day of school for the year began with a type of Belgian waffle. My mother swore that the double decker waffle layered with cool whip and fruit cocktail was something that my grandmother served for birthday breakfasts when my mom was growing up. She also swore that this was something that was served in my Gramma Ada’s family in Germany for generations. Do I know this for fact? No. Can I believe it? Yes, I can. Especially when I look at all of the fresh fruit and cream dripped over jelly roll cakes and open faced fruit cakes in the cooking magazines.

After our last post on fruit compotes for the season, I decided to apply the combination to my mother’s waffle construction to create this breakfast cake.What a great way to celebrate the first day of Spring!

Begin with a single layer of yellow cake or, even better, an angel food cake. And angel food cake will let you use the juice from the compote to drizzle fruit flavors into the cake itself before you begin to add layers.

breakfast layers

The first layer is a ready made key lime pie filling. If you can make your own do so, I do not have that particular skill. Next drop a layer of home made fresh whipped cream in the center of the cake. When you begin to form the well, be very careful that you don’t let the wall of the whipped cream layer slide over the edge of the filling layer. The walls of the well will be filled with fruit that is heavy enough to knock it down if you push whipped cream too far out to the edge. The fruit compote should be well drained. I suggest using it to flavor the cake layer with the poke cake method for the yellow cake or brushing the juice over the top of the trimmed angel food cake and letting it soak into the body for an extra burst of flavor.

Finish the cake with a soft, non hardening chocolate sauce. I had dark chocolate on hand but I think also that a white chocolate would make a great drizzle for the top. A small dollop of whipped cream with a blackberry on top finishes the cake for presentation.

Fruit & cream on a fluffy light cake, in the German tradition, makes a great special breakfast for a morning on the porch at the First Day of Summer.

Summer Freshness! Rumtopf oder Compote

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a spot of sunshine in a bowl

Celebrating the sun and the heat with simple foods that don’t weigh us down, that’s the Summer we all want. After a long dark Winter of heavy comfort foods that keep us feeling full and energized, not to mention warm, Summertime salads hit the spot. In Northern Michigan we have had an on again/off again relationship with the heat. Currently we are sitting in the 60s when our normal temps are in the upper 70s to 80s. Nonetheless, the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables can not be missed! Preserving Summer’s bounty to last as long into the year as possible is the hallmark of German cuisine. Preserved meats seem to be the thing most Americans are familiar with. Rumtopf is another standby in the rich German food tradition.

Rumtopf accumulates ripe Summer fruits during the season. As they become available the coarse cut fruit is added to a pot and topped off with Rum. Strawberries, raspberries, cherries, and currants go into a pot to stew in their own liquid with that rum to activate the process. Red fruits seem to be the most common. However, any fruit harvested in season will work. Keep stone fruits together in one collection of plums, apricots, peaches and quince though. I suspect the flesh of these will break down faster.

I’ve had rumtopf once. And it was an experience that proves two things. One bad cook can ruin and entire nation’s reputation and always use the best ingredients. A cheap rum, such as what was used in the batch I tried as a kid, destroys the entire effect. And, because there are bad cooks everywhere, you can not let one experience keep you from exploring further. It is a treat when you get the good stuff right off. But it is an adventure to find better examples.

Sadly, I won’t be making rumtopf this year as I am currently unemployed. So instead, we leave the rum out of this recipe and kick up the compote with flavored sugar. Vanilla sugar is the most common flavor enhancer used in Germany. I find very few recipes that call for anything else. But I also know that the Germans aren’t afraid of the bold flavors.

So this compote has a healthy dose of Lavender Sugar in it. I know what you must be thinking; it tastes like soap. But no, it does not. In fact, the stringent quality of the lavender mixed with strawberries, raspberries and blackberries gives a near perfect balance of flavors. I say near perfect because there is one fruit I am hesitant to use lavender with.

Due to allergies, we leave cherries out of a third of the mix. After sampling both mixes with and without cherries I can say that I wouldn’t mix them with this herb. For what ever reason the lavender seems to enhance the bitter taste of the cherry skin which actually destroys the flavor of the cherry flesh. We’ll still eat it. But next time will leave it our. And we will add blueberries when they come to season.

 

Waldmeister

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galium

galium odoratum: sweet woodruff. Also known as sweet bedstraw, and bedstraw, or wild baby’s breath. Native to much of Europe and Asia, limited naturalization in North America this species belongs to the rubiaceae family. 

We were trekking through tornado torn Glen Arbor a few weeks ago and stopped in to Wildflowers. As we were on a mission for trilliums, which Alex has been cultivating for a few years now, I wasn’t really expecting to find any thing that I couldn’t live without. Until we passed a tray of woodruff.

I’ve been studying this plant since discovering Waldmeister flavored gelatin. I knew these perky little guys immediately and I might have squealed a little. Then I saw the wildflower beds set for display. A carpet of woodruff surrounded each of the birches! After my housemate found her triliums I went back for a 6 pack of woodruff. It smelled just like the gelatin! Eating it doesn’t taste much like it. But the smell! Any time you ruffle your fingers through these flowers is smells like dessert!

So we brought these guys home and stuck them in the hillside. They should take over fairly easily. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will be naturalizing this plant to protect it from developers. It is not native to Michigan. Brought over by our Immigrant Ancestors™, it is largely ignored by most of the citizenry. Alex is cultivating it because it is a prolific plant that works hard to control erosion along riverbeds. No one really knows that much about it here, so I wasted no time telling him!

My goal is to have these plants spread enough this Summer to make my own mai bowle next year. Aside from it’s herbaceous qualities, it is really just a perky and adorable little plant worth being in any wildflower garden.

 

 

Panna Cotta, That’s NOT German!

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~ cool layered dessert

Puddings, custards or a panna cotta. They are all  very similar in texture it is the construction that differs. Custards are thickened with egg, puddings most often with corn starch and panna cotta with gelatin. This recipe is a German Italian fusion. Using Giada deLaurentis’ panna cotta recipe as a base, we are going to Deutsch it up a bit with a key substitute. Waldmeister Götterspeise.

One thing to note here, no where does this recipe say that the dessert will separate into two layers. When I unpotted these I was quite surprised by the result. I also had used only 3 cups of half and half. That may have contributed to the issue. I added an extra cup to this recipe because a packet is more than the one tablespoon that Giada’s recipe calls for. And with the extra cup you will have a fluffier dessert than the dense creamy bottom I got.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup whole milk
  • 1 packet of waldmeister flavored gelatin
  • 4 cups half and half
  • 1/3 Cup honey or 1/4 cup of agave nectar
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • pinch of salt

Add whole milk to a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin pack over it. Let sit for 3-5 minutes to let the gelatin soften.

Next pout this mixture into a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the gelatin dissolves but the milk does not boil. Then pour in the half and half, sweeteners and salt. Cook while stirring until the sugar dissolves, about 5-7 minutes.

Remove from heat

Pour into chosen moulds.

A note about moulds. You can use anyting. This kind of pudding done German style can be very rustic, use simple items like coffee cups or 2-3 ounce dessert bowls which will give you a well rounder dome. Restaurant dishes like the square server I used are trendy. For specially themed parties you can use a mini bundt or kugelhopf pan,  mini jell-o moulds for individual servings. Or you could use a large old fashioned mould for a larger dessert display.

A thinner panna cotta will start to melt the moment it is served. For the thicker one like mine use only 3 cups of half and half to the one packet of gelatin. This will hold up well to sitting out for a time.

Chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours to allow this to set properly. If you are using individual moulds lining them up on a baking tray before filling will make transport and storage much much easier.

To turn out the panna cotta, run a knife dipped in hot water around the edges. Set into a shallow bowl of hot water to loosen. Lay the serving plate upside down over the top of mould, flip over. It should release with a slurp or a pop.

Garnish as desired. I used an actual sprig of waldmeister.